Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve Memories

Being in The Salvation Army, I have had many memories of New Year's Eve and the annual Watchnight Services.

My first recollection is from about 28-29 years ago when I was pushing a car around the floor in the Harrisburg corps and despite warning from mom, dad, grandma and grandpa, split my head open when I lost control and hit a concrete pillar. I remember my grandpa jumping up swooping me into his arms and taking me to get cleaned up. I don't recall if he made it to his 2nd meeting of the night as he and my mom took me to the emergency room where I was given butterfly sutures. I still have the scar on my head. My mom can find it!

The greatest New Year's memory happened a few years later. I was probably 6-7 years old. Our bathroom in our house lock used to stick and sometimes whoever was in it, would get locked in for a short time. Usually just a few seconds.

Well the entire family was gathered at the house for the holidays. We were getting ready for the Watchnight service when we heard a ruckus in the bathroom. Grandpa was locked in. My cousin and I were playing with all of our new toys, everyone else was wondering what was going to happen. Grandma was nervous that we would all be late for the services. Everyone else was laughing hysterically. Fortunately, my Uncle Steve is a fairly handy guy and was able to find the tools in the house, pass them under the door, and give my grandpa directions on how to take the door of the hinges.

This went on for an hour or so, and the Camuti house was in stitches! It was the funniest thing to happen in a long time!

Next Christmas, my Aunt Dot and Uncle Steve gave my Grandpa a Bathroom survival kit that included the necessary tools, Oreo cookies and other items needed to make a long stay in the bathroom more pleasurable.

Memories are great, particularly when shared with loved ones and family.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Movies of 2005

All of the so called critics are saying that 2005 was disappointing year for movies. If you know me well, you will know that I am a movie buff and can quote many lines from my favorite movies.

So as I sit here at my office passing out payroll checks to my kettle workers, I thought of blogging. I was just reading about some movies when the topic of movies popped into my head.

I looked forward to several movies this year and I will give my review of them in ascending order.

The Dukes of Hazzard
I was really looking forward to this movie, but I was very disappointed in it. Having grown up watching the original series, I couldn't wait to see a modern day remake. When my mom would pick me up from school, I would slide into the window of her camaro pretending I was Bo Duke.

I was immediately disappointed upon seeing the adult theming very early on as well as the profanity. One thing that made the original Dukes special was that it truly was family entertainment. As a 5-6 year old my parents had no problem letting me watch the original. I don't think I would let my kids watch this.

Big Disappointment! *

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
This is another remake that I was very much looking forward to. I was impressed with it, but the jury is still out whether or not I like it as much as the original. Johnny Depp is perhaps the most versatile actor in Hollywood today, and he never ceases to amaze.

I would give this movie **1/2.

Stars Wars Episode III
It can truly be said that this movie was 28 years in the making. Ever since the character of Darth Vader was introduced in 1977, America and the world have had a fascination with him.

I went to see this move a couple of times in the theater, and actually nearly fell asleep the 2nd time. It was okay, and was needed to complete the story arc, but Star Wars creator George Lucas relied too much on special effects. However, seeing Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader was truly a treat and made up for the less than perfect story.

I rate this one ***.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith
This is a movie that intrigued me. I love the action genre, and I think Angelina Jolie is just great. I enjoyed this movie for non stop action and the white hot chemistry between the two lead actors.

This movie has it all and is enjoyable for both men and women. It has Brad Pitt for women to enjoy and has the all American babe Angelina Jolie for the men to enjoy.

I would rate this ***1/2.

Batman Begins
I went into this movie not really knowing what to expect. I had seen all of the other Batman movies and some were good, others not so good. I was immediately blown away by this one! After sitting in the theater watching this, I came out saying that was the best movie I had seen in a long time. The story was well developed, the casting was good. Christian Bale played a great Bruce Wayne/Batman. He portrayed conflicted superhero, not really know what his place was.

The ending was a rush, and even set it up for a sequel by when Lt. Gordon flashed a card that a new criminal was leaving at the scene of his crimes...the card...the Joker!

I rate this one ****.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dogs Part II

At my sister's request, I need to blog about another dog that is special to our family.

While I have never lived with Taylor, I will respect her wishes.

Taylor--Labrador Retriever

Shortly after Brittany was put to sleep, my parents decided they needed another dog. Tracy was 12 and had only known having a dog in her home.

Along came Taylor. Taylor is the biggest Daddy's girl in the world! My dad can tell her to do anything and she will do it. She totally respects him and all he has to do is call her by name and she comes running.

Taylor is a great dog and I enjoy having my parents bring her to my home for a visit. We have a huge yard in Norwich that is entirely fenced in, so it is great to let the dogs run around.

Taylor enjoys daily walks in the summer around my parents neighborhood. She knows when dinner is over that it is time to go for a walk and will bark until her leash is secured on her collar.

My mother treats Taylor as well as us kids. Recently she slipped down the steps and my mom called to make sure it was ok for her to bring Taylor to Connecticut because she did not want to leave her home alone with a limp. Also, since she is a little nervous about the steps to the family room, my mom will walk her downstairs through the garage where it isn't as steep or slippery.

Taylor is a great dog. She has brought much joy to my parents as well as my wife and kids.


Throughout my life, I have always had a dog. Except for four years at the SFOT, there has always been a dog in my life. No, I wasn't on some remedial tract at the SFOT, just one of a few who were...priviliged to be there with my parents then as a cadet myself.

Today, I wish to share with you the dogs that have been in my life.


Sam was the first dog that we had. He was around before me. He was a Beagle and all he used to do is lay around. He didn't play, he didn't do much. In fact, my grandma once told my dad, "Dennis, why don't you get Sam put to sleep, all he does is sleep anyway!"

Sam was a good watch dog, and that was one of the rare times he showed any life. If the doorbell rang, he would go running to the door.

Sam developed severe neck problems and was put to sleep at the age of eight I believe. I was only 7 or so at the time, so I really don't remember.


I remember seeing Laddie in the pet store at the Harrisburg East Mall just before Sam was put to sleep. He looked so cute, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself for us to need a dog, I quickly reminded my parents of the Collie at the mall. know the story, family goes in store looking for a puppy, store staff sees family, has family hold dog, family willingly turns over a few hundred dollars and walks out with dog.

Laddie was a cool dog. He was a typical puppy and was very smart. He could open the gate on our chain link fence back yard. He was great.

Unfortunately, he was the first of my parents possessions that had to go when they decided to become Salvation Army officers. One of my mother's co-workers had just purchased a farm and was looking for a dog. Laddie found a new family and lived to be an old dog with his new family.

Brittany--Brittany Spaniel

Two years of agony! For the two years of training school with my parents, I was petless. (is that even a word?) Shortly after being commissioned and sent to Punxsutawney, PA. We began to scour the classified ads for a new puppy. We found Brittany at a breeder in Blairsville, PA. She was a great dog. She was incredibly smart, and had a great personality. She never ceased to amaze us with her various tricks. My mother is convinced that the dog "talked" to her. Well not really, but it is an inside family joke!

Brittany lived to the ripe age of 13 and developed a tumor in her throat which constricted her breathing. She was put to sleep in the fall of 1997. I was at the SFOT and when I heard my mother's broken voice on the phone, I knew what she was calling about. I cried like a baby that night. I had truly lost a good friend.

Ashley--Siberian Husky

Shortly after being commissioned and married, Elaine and I were ready to start a family. Well, not that and not quite yet. We were driving around southern Maine one night and decided to stop at the mall. Well, just like the story of Laddie, we had the same experience. We saw a cute Siberian Husky, and we just couldn't resist. A few hundred dollars turned into several hundred dollars. You know the story...out we walked with our new puppy.

Ashley was a cool dog. She wasn't a typical dog. She hated going for rides. She was by no means a watch dog. She was defintely a part of our family for 6 years. She developed seizures and these seizures became more and more frequent. The last she never quite recovered from. She was put to sleep earlier than we ever expected and that was a sad day for all of us in the Camuti household.

Jasmine--Brittany Spaniel

Immediately after Ashley was put to sleep, we needed to go into damage control. We had young children and Samantha was very upset that Ashley was no longer with us. We picked up a classified, and immediately scoured the ads. We found a very reasonable ad for Brittany Spaniel puppies. I grew up with Brittany, so I knew these were cool dogs. All I had to do was convince Elaine and Samantha. Well, the price was right! She was much cheaper than the Labrador that Elaine wanted. After making a phone call, we were on our way to the breeder near Augusta.

We arrived and were taken into the puppy room. Jasmine came running to the kids. When I got down to check her out, she immediately leaped up into my arms and gave me a kiss. Can we say sold????

Samantha named her after the Disney Princess Jasmine from the animated movie Aladdin. Jasmine has got to be the coolest dog. She is very loving. She follows me everywhere. She is a great watchdog and is a great addition to our family. We have had her now for a little over a year and she never ceases to amaze us with her great personality. She reminds me of another great dog that was the same breed.

Do you love dogs? Share your stories.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


At this time of the year, we focus a lot on family. I can recall as a child all coming together as a family for the holidays. This was especially true following the passing of my Grandpa in 1983. It seemed we were all very close for those couple years before and after his Promotion to Glory. My cousin Krista and I were more like brother and sister than cousins at that time. We saw each other so much!

Now adulthood is here, and I have a family of my own. There is a loving wife, two great kids, a Brittany dog, a tiger cat, all getting a piece of my love. Over these last few days, we have grown together even more as a family. The joy of opening gifts, and yes, putting together those gifts, have made us close. It is such a joy to hear my son and daughter come to me with an innocence in their voices with the plea, "daddy, can you open this for me?" The only dreadful part is putting together the toys with less then perfect directions! You parents of young children can probably relate.

Even with extended family, modern technology has made it so easy to keep in touch. Today we have e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, and yes, even blogs. Today with the assault that seems to be taking place against the family, it is now easier than ever to keep in touch with ones family.

My challenge to you this day is to enjoy your family, and to get in touch with your family. You will find some more joy this holiday season, I can guaratee it!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas Eve. There is a fire in the fireplace, the kids are going to sleep. After a rough couple of days, we are finally able to kick back and relax for a bit. Who knows, I may pop in one of my favorite holiday DVD's, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I am sure that there is a little bit of Clark W. Griswold in all of us during this time of year. Chevy Chase really shined as that character in the 4 vacation movies. If I watch that movie, I may really be able to unwind and relax.

It has been a long couple of days...

Last evening, a deer hit Elaine. Yes I know it sounds weird, but it collided with the car on the left side, then rolled onto the hood. It is sad because it is a brand new car that is only 4 months old! It is so sad to see a banged up minivan that is unable to be driven sitting idle in our driveway. The good news is she was driving slow, and the airbags did not deploy! The car will be fixed I just hope it doesn't take too long.

In closing I just wanted to send out some Christmas greetings, love, whatever you want to call it to all my readers. I know I don't have too many, but if you could, leave me a comment to let me know someone is reading my blog .

Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Johnny Damon

Last night I received a text message from Tracy at 11:00 PM. It said, "Yankee news, call me." I immediately got on the phone and expected it to be something about Johnny Damon.

She answered her phone and said, "Johnny Damon is a Yankee." I expected that this might happen, but hearing it was definitely surprising. Johnny Damon was, and note the word was, the chief idiot on the Boston Red Sox. That was his description not mine. He was known as the Caveman, or Jesus for his long locks of hair, and his beard. He has now crossed over baseball's Jordan River and came to the promised land. He will lose his long hair, and his beard in accordance with George Steinbrenner's grooming policies. Upon passing his physical the contract will be finalized and a press conference will be called to officially give him his pinstripes.

Now a couple of things are interesting to note. The Red Sox already called a press conference in which team President Larry Lucchino said, that nothing is finalized. He along with the "deer in the headlights" teen twin General Managers of the Sox sounded as if the Yankees have personally removed their hearts. Well Johnny was on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston refering the the Yankeees in the context of we. This sounds pretty definitive to me!

This is a major blow to the Red Sox. With Spring Training some 60 or so days away, they have no starting first baseman, short stop, and center fielder. They have an additional outfielder that has demanded a trade, but due to the size of his contract, Manny Ramirez will most likely be miserable in left field at Fenway this year. Perhaps he will spend more time listening to his I-Pod while fielding and taking more rests in the Green Monster!

How do I feel about all of this? I will have to say that as a Red Sox player, I disliked Johnny Damon the least. I always thought he played the game well, unlike team Captain Jason Varitek who picks a fight with all of his catcher's gear on, including his mask. I look forward to welcoming him when I go to my first Yankee game this next season on April 18th in Toronto. I think that his presence in the lineup will further fortify the Yankees lineup. Derek Jeter can return to the 2 hole and we can have Sheffield, A-Rod, Matsui and Giambi as our 3-4-5-6 batters! What a lethal punch! I noted from a hit chart that Damon hits to all areas of the field and should do very well hitting at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are clearly better today than they were at the close of the 2005 season.

Your attention please...ladies and gentlemen, now batting for the Yankees, the center fielder, #18, Johnny Damon.---Mr. Bob Sheppard voice of Yankee Stadium.

Welcome to New York Johnny!

Monday, December 19, 2005


Yesterday, Elaine and I spent or shall I say, celebrated her birthday by going to New York. On Friday, she turned the big 3-0. Shhh, but don't tell her I told you! In all seriousness, she has welcomed turning 30.

A few weeks ago, Elaine mentioned going to a Broadway show. We had just seen Rent in the movies, so Elaine wanted to see it on Broadway. We both got addicted to the songs, and decided that it would be a great to go see it as our first Broadway show.

We intially wanted to go after Christmas, but the discount code I found off the net was not being accepted by Ticketmaster the week following Christmas. After all, if I can save $50 off the ticket price, I will make adjustments! The tickets were purchased, train tickets were purchased, and we were ready to go.

Following our Sunday services, we raced home, got changed and sped away to New Haven to catch a train. Fortunately there were no Connecticut State Troopers on I-95! We arrived at our train with 5 minutes to spare. If I had driven the speed limit, we would have missed it, not that I ever do the limit!

After a nice train ride to Grand Central Terminal, we were out on 42nd Street walking towards Times Square. My, has Times Square changed over the years. There are video screens, neon lights absolutely everywhere. Gone are the adult themed parlors which plagued the area. There are large stores and restaurants everywhere. Elaine stopped and said, "Wow, I love this place." We walked around Times Square for a while, grabbed some dinner, and hit Modell's for some Christmas gifts. Soon it was time to make our way to the theater on 41st St.

Upon entering the theater, I was instantly amazed at the size. I imagined it would be much larger, but it was not. It was smaller than the Army's CMT on 14th St. We were in the mezzanine in the center. We had great seats. The band came out as well as the the rest of the company. The show had begun.

We were wowed by the talent of the performers. It was neat to see American Idol outcast Frenchie Davis wail a solo in the musical's anthem, Seasons of Love. My sister text messaged me during the show to call her during the intermission. She wanted to know how it was. I couldn't wait to tell her about it. I don't believe I have a favorite moment from the show, but I do enjoy the songs, Another Day, Seasons of Love, and I'll Cover You Reprise. Musically, it was something unlike anything I have experienced.

Walking out of the theater, I was singing the songs as I walked up 42nd St back to Grand Central to catch our train home. If you live close to New York, you must indulge yourself and enjoy a Broadway show. There are some great shows currently running, and discounts are common.

Five Hundred, Twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes, five Hundred, Twenty five thousand moments so dear, Five Hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?" Opening line from Seasons of Love

Friday, December 16, 2005

What a Day!!!

It is 10:51 PM EST, and I have just now sat down! How many more days until Christmas???? I even still have my uniform on!

Today I drove 280 miles driving primarily around my city with a short trip to Hartford. I feel as though I am reliving my days at Camp Ladore where I was Camp Driver for two summers. There are striking similarities. I drove a burgundy Chevrolet van at Camp, and I drive burgundy Chevrolet van here now 12 years later! I also have the same boss! Go figure!

Yes, even though I am deep into the Christmas season, I still have to make weekly trips to DHQ. Regional accounting is a blessing, but the United States Postal Service is unreliable. You would not think that it would take 3 days for a letter or more importantly checks to travel 42 miles, but it does. Never has the term snail mail been more fitting!

Despite all of my stress at this time of year, great things are happening. Elaine and I picked up hundreds of toys for children who might have not otherwise received them. Kettles seem to be picking up after a slow 10 days. Everything is coming together for our 1st distribution in Norwich on Wednesday.

It was a hectic day, but with the Lord's strength, I made it. There are 8 more hectic days ahead, and with His strength not mine, I will make it!

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mariano Rivera

It is the Ninth inning. The Yankees are ahead and there is a save situation. The song Enter Sandman by Metallica begins to blare on the stadium speakers. The fence at the bullpen opens and out jogs Mariano Rivera, #42. He is the best closer in Baseball history. He plays for the most storied franchise in sports, and he is a Christian.

Mariano Rivera is by far my favorite New York Yankee. After moving to Connecticut, and finally being able to watch YES (Yankees, Entertainment, and Sports) network on a regular basis, I earned even more respect for this man seeing him nearly every night this past summer.

Yesterday, he joined Mike and the Mad Dog on their afternoon show on sports radio 660 WFAN. His 13 minute interview with Mike Francessa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo was nothing short of a testimony of his faith. When asked of the secret to his success, Mo very plainly said, "1st it is God, He helps me do everything."

After a few minutes of describing other things that he helps make him successful, Mike mentioned to him about being underpaid. Now many of us who follow sports, understand that the salaries are very high, and Rivera is clearly not poor, however, when compared to other relief pitchers, who recently signed, ahem...BJ Ryan and Billy Wagner, he clearly is the best of all time, and he is also making a lot less money than these other players. When asked if he is underpaid, Mo said, "It is not about money." Yes, Mr. Steinbrenner, for once you actually underpaid someone!

The conversation then shifted to the Hall of Fame. Rivera is clearly a first ballot hall of famer. When asked about it, Mariano said, "It is not really a goal for me to get there."

In closing, Rivera said that above all else, he thanks God for making him as successful as he is, and that he thanks God that he is on the Yankees. As he hung up the phone, Mo wished Mike and Chris a Merry Christmas and God bless you.

I have only highlighted some of the interview. You can listen to it in its entirety by going to

Yankee Captain and shortstop, Derek Jeter has said that Rivera is always asking him for donations and also to sign stuff, so that he can build churches in his home country of Panama. Upon retiring from baseball, Mo is going to join the ministry and be a minister.

Mo, keep witnessing, and continue to be a shining light for the Lord.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Ah, the word itself has been part of my vocabulary since I was able to speak! It seems as far as I can remember, I have been involved in some way with The Salvation Army Christmas kettle effort.

My first recollection is helping my grandfather as a young child. I used to ride shotgun with him while he made the rounds in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Each Friday and Saturday night, I would ride with him on the west shore route. I used to think I was a tough guy the way I would pick up the sign, put in the back of the van and slam the door. As a 6 year old, I was a little too small and too weak to handle a tripod! On Christmas day, he would usually present me with a small ( by today's standards) cash reward for helping him out.

My next recollection takes me to when my parents were commisioned as Army officers. While Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania was by no means as busy at Harrisburg, I thoroughly enjoyed the time in the van with my mom and dad, and yes...ultimately Tracy when she was born.

Before too long, I soon became old enough to legally work kettles. My father insisted that I help him out, and even though as a teenage boy, I thought there were better ways to spend my Saturdays, I reluctantly helped him out.

Soon, the Lord had other plans for my life, and called me to be an officer. As a cadet, we were required to stand kettles, and although I never had the opportunity to stand in Manhattan, I enjoyed the time playing in a brass quartet at Woodbury Commons in Woodbury, NY. The time flew by and it wasn't too cold.

Now as an officer, I have grown accustomed to the 14-15 hour days, living in my 15 passenger van with my kids for 5 weeks out of the year, and only using my home for sleeping. However, our Army requires the cash donations received to operate year round. This year we seem to be doing quite well. Let's just hope the weather stay pleasant for the next 10 days!

Kettles have been a huge part of my life. Share your kettle stories. I would love to hear them.